Tag Archives: DeWitt Iowa

Made in DeWitt

October is National Manufacturing Month and in this month dedicated to manufacturing I encourage people to learn more about manufacturing in DeWitt. I began my career in this field twenty-two years ago. My journey started with an opportunity to work part-time at a company named JRB located in DeWitt’s Industrial Park.  JRB was a manufacturer of construction attachments for John Deere and other Original Equipment Manufacturer’s.  At the time I had no idea where the Crossroads Business Park (DeWitt’s Industrial Park) was, what companies were located in it, nor the goods they produced.  What I did recognize was an opportunity to work outside of the typical part-time high school job.  Like many other high school students, I hadn’t made up my mind what I wanted to do for a career. I did know that I wasn’t looking forward to four years of college and viewed this job as a way to see what else was out there.  

So, I found myself in a completely new environment, where people were welding, operating lathes, burn tables, boring machines and painting.  We were literally taking raw steel and processing it into loader buckets, forks, booms, and couplers.  I grew to love the various processes, people and new opportunities that presented themselves.  I got a deep sense of satisfaction when I saw a bucket on a Deere wheel loader that our team in DeWitt had proudly made, as a matter of fact, the bucket on the City of DeWitt’s 544 was made at the DeWitt facility.  

Just like any industry, construction equipment has its ups and downs.  I saw plant expansion and contraction, selling and acquiring businesses, new product lines and phasing out legacy products.  Through it all, I was able to turn hard work and dedication into opportunities for growth.  I worked my way through different departments and increased roles of responsibility culminating in a leadership role as a plant supervisor.  Unfortunately, in 2009, due to the biggest recession since the great depression, JRB was shuttered and production was moved to sister sites in other states.  I was fortunate to stay on with the company that owned JRB and traveled between Davenport and Dubuque to manage a small division called CustomWorks.

Then three years later in 2012 I saw an article in The Observer that a Canadian company called Black Cat Blades was purchasing the old JRB building in the Industrial Park.  I stopped by the plant one day that October which led to a four month interview process where I was given the opportunity to get to know Black Cat and the culture that is very important to our business model.  A large part of what attracted Black Cat to DeWitt was not just the fact that the Industrial Park was less than 20 minutes north of Deere Davenport Works or 50 minutes south of Deere Dubuque Works, it was the people from the area they were meeting which started with the DCDC and DCDC members.  

The thought has always been that the community of DeWitt was a good fit for Black Cat’s culture and guiding principles, and that continued through the use of local contractors like Jansen ElectricHolst Construction and Dorhman during start up.  We believe in building relationships in the community we operate in and over the last four years I feel we have been successful in becoming part of the community.  We now employee 16 team members and in 2014 we started manufacturing wear blades in addition to our warehousing activities. DeWitt is very fortunate to have a successful Industrial Park and the jobs and opportunities that exist within it.  

So the next time you have a few minutes take a drive through the Crossroads Business Park and you will see all kinds of different manufacturing companies making anything from air fresheners, glass, testing products, wear components, pumps and valves, and ground engaging tools.  These companies come from all around the United States and other countries like Canada, Italy, and Sweden and truly demonstrate that DeWitt is part of a global economy.  

Josh Daniel, Black Cat Blades – DeWitt Plant Manager

See more about how DeWitt Delivers manufacturing and more!

 

 

Our Community, Our Home

I love to volunteer for activities that allow me to interact with kids in my community.  Whether it is at my church, or our community library, it’s rewarding to provide an activity that teach or entertain our community’s youth.  Volunteering at DeWitt’s Autumn Fest is a great opportunity to see the children I may already know from other community events and to meet the rest of their families.  But more importantly, it is an opportunity to build bridges with the next generation.  Someday, they will be the leaders of our community, and if I can help nurture them in some way, I feel that it is time well spent.

DeWitt is a lovely community and a great place to live and to raise children.  I want the children to be exposed to the many great aspects of the community and maybe raise their family here. Hopefully, some of them will become the leaders that help our community stay strong, safe and thriving.

It is important as adults, as parents, as churches, as business owners and as community leaders; to do everything we can to help our children have positive things to do with their time and energy.  Autumn Fest is an event that provides an opportunity to be involved in kid’s lives and to help our community stay strong.  Events like Autumn Fest connect people with their hometown and help them build relationships with one another.  “Home” is a very special place, we should do everything we can to continue to make DeWitt “home” for our kids and their families.

Cindy Nees, Director of Children’s Ministries, DeWitt Evangelical Free Church

Taking The Road Less Traveled To DeWitt

My wife Sandy and I will take any excuse for a road trip that gives us an opportunity to see new parts of the country.  And when we do, we like to get off the main roads to enjoy the real America, not just the “highway America.”  We enjoy the slower pace, the opportunity to see the great beauty and many attractions and curiosities this country offers, and the chance conversations and experiences one can only have if you take the road less traveled.  In all these respects, DeWitt definitely delivered.

Last month, Sandy and I had an opportunity to travel from northern Virginia to Vinton, Iowa to attend our son’s end-of-service ceremony with FEMA Corps, a national service program focused on disaster response and disaster mitigation.  We came up through central Ohio and stopped off to visit friends and family, wound our way through Indiana hill country and Illinois croplands and crossed the Mississippi north of Davenport heading to Vinton.  Thus it was that we found ourselves passing through DeWitt on Route 30 on a fine spring day around lunchtime.  So we stopped off at the Garden Café for some mighty fine soup and sandwiches.

While enjoying the hospitality of the nice folks at the Garden Cafe, we read a bit about native son and noted artist John Bloom and a mural he had painted, “Shucking Corn,” installed in the old DeWitt post office, now City Hall.  With a little time on our hands, and always keen to take advantage of local attractions, we decided to have a peek.  We wandered over to the post office and inquired about the mural and the very helpful postmistress informed us that we had found the new post office, and that the mural was located in the “old post office,” now serving as the City Hall.   Entering City Hall, we were invited by the folks in the front offices to enjoy Bloom’s work located above the Mayor’s office door.  It was well worth the time—a wonderful artistic representation of the American experience we leave the city and highway to enjoy.  The enthusiastic folks there pointed us to some additional Bloom sketches mounted in the Council chambers.  We had an enjoyable conversation about the growth and development around DeWitt.

Heading back to the car we crossed the intersection of 10th Street and 6th Avenue, and we were diverted by a sign identifying the intersection as the crossroads of the old Lincoln Highway and the historic Blues Road.  I’m a great blues fan and it is my ambition on a future road trip to follow the Blues from New Orleans northward.  As we were enjoying that discovery, we turned around to see a thatched roof building in Lincoln Park, something you just don’t see every day in this country!  Further intrigued by the German “Hausbarn” museum sign, we poked our German Hausbarn, DeWitt Iowaheads into the Chamber of Commerce offices to inquire about it.  We met the DCDC staff, who couldn’t have been more gracious representatives of DeWitt—opening up the museum for us and letting us know about the various happenings in the DeWitt environs, including Tunes in Town located in Lincoln Park.  We greatly enjoyed our conversation with them and their willingness to show us the well-organized displays relating to the German migration to America.

As we had an event to get to in Vinton, we reluctantly took our leave of the good folks of DeWitt.  But we have abiding memories of a town with great local attractions and of warm, embracing residents who have an obvious sense of civic pride, and who have a predisposition to offer a helping hand, even to out-of-town folks just passing through.  We look forward with great anticipation to our Blues Road travels in the next year or so, now not just because of the draw of the music, but because it will provide us the opportunity to travel up 6th Avenue on our return to one of our new favorite American towns.

With fond memories – Rob and Sandy Fountain

 

Childhood Experience Sparks Volunteerism

As a 39 year old native of DeWitt,  I grew here doing the same things that kids today do – school and sports.  I think I was 5 or 6 years old when we had a chimney fire at our house one evening.  My sister and I were sent across the street to our neighbor’s house.  I remember watching out the window in amazement at all the fire trucks and firefighters working to put out the fire and making sure things were safe for us again.  Not long after that my father decided to become a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department, where he is still a member of 33 years.

Fast forward to 2006.  My wife Jodee and I had our first girl, Hannah.  It was then that I decided it was time for me to give back to the community that had taken care of me so well.  I became a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department as well in October of 2006.  In addition to Hannah, we have Hailee who is 7 and Jack who is 3.  Our kids love the fact that I am a volunteer firefighter.  They get to do things that a lot of other kids don’t get a chance to do like ride in the fire trucks during parades and going up to the fire station at any time.  Sometimes they want to bring their friends along! Each summer there is a family picnic at Westbrook Park that our kids look forward to just as I did when I was young.

My wife and I have had the pleasure of getting to know a whole new “family” with the fire department.  Most of the people we probably would not have even met and become so close had I not decided to join.

We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Let me put that into perspective; we don’t get a day off.  When that pager goes off, you react and respond.  It may be at night when we are sleeping, during the day while at work or even while attending Church.  We don’t get to choose when it goes off.   I  have missed family dinners, birthday parties, weddings and work.  But it is all worth it.  When you see that look of terror in a stranger’s eye when you show up and the relief when you leave, that’s when it hits you.  We made a difference.  We made a positive impact on that person’s life.

During the first year of membership a new firefighter is required to be FireFighter 1 certified.  That is a 120 hour course and a passing grade on a written and hands on exam to get the certification.  Firefighter 1 teaches the basic firefighting fundamentals that are essential to the job.  The state of Iowa also requires 24 hours of training each year for volunteer firefighters.  Our department has 2 1/2 trainings each month on the 4th Monday of the month.  There are times when it is hard to find that balance of being a good father, husband and have a full time job, but with great support from my wife and kids, we manage.

Being a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department makes me feel like I can give back to my community.  It gives me great pride that I am a small part of our 30 person department.  We all feel like we can be positive roll models for our own kids as well as all the kids in our community.  We are very fortunate to have the support that everyone provides.  We have awesome equipment, a great group of firefighters and the best community around!

I would encourage everyone to not hesitate to volunteer for anything you feel passionate about, whether it be coaching youth sports or a 4H volunteer, there is always room for more volunteers.  Without volunteers our community could not deliver the opportunities that we offer!  If anyone has any interest in becoming part of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department you may talk to me or any of the other 29 members.

Jeff Peters, DeWitt Resident & Proud Volunteer for the DeWitt Fire Department

Bridging the Future at Westbrook

The community is buzzing with great reviews regarding the new bridge on the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail. The bridge now carries walkers, runners, dogs, bikers, disc golfers, mountain bikers and hikers across Silver Creek at Westbrook Park. It is situated east of the old bridge location and at a higher elevation, keeping tree debris from accumulating during floods as it previously was under the 100-year flood elevation.

The new precast concrete construction consists a partial realignment of the bridge approach, a 10’ wide 75’ double tee pedestrian span and a height that reaches 6 to 8 feet higher than the previous bridge.  The width of the bridge allows for easy snow removal which will grant easy access to the trail during the winter months.

The original bid for construction was $240,879.50 from Ritmer Inc. of DeWitt, but the start of the bridge project was initially delayed due to the necessity of a wetland delineation, resolving Indiana Bat Habitat issues, and working to comply with IDNR regulations. In the end, the cost of the project – including legal, administrative fees, engineering and construction – totaled $292,342.24. The bridge project was designed and engineered by IIW Engineers & Surveyors PC.

The new bridge is a tremendous addition to Westbrook Park. Everyone is invited to enjoy the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail and check it out.  The bridge was made possible by funds from: City of DeWitt, Clinton County Development Association, and Paul Skeffington Memorial Race Committee.

DeWitt Delivers Recreation!

 

Family Farming in Clinton County

I was born 38 years ago into a farming family.  I have fond memories of my childhood on the farm.  I remember helping with sorting pigs back when my dad had a small farrow to finish hog operation.  This means we had sow’s that gave birth to baby pigs and we raised them until maturity and sold them to market.  I also have memories of riding in tractors and the combine that seemed so big and massive at that young age.  Then I moved to town with my mom and spent the majority of my formidable years as a city kid that only had marginal association to the farm.  I give this brief but powerful insight into my childhood because now that I have a family of my own I understand as a father what those experiences and memories mean to me as a father as well as what they mean to my own children.

My family has come a long way from when I was a child when we farrowed those 80-100 sows and raised pigs all while planting 1000 acres of corn and soybeans.  Over the years we have IMG_0126since stopped raising hogs and are now only crop farmers.  Today on an annual basis we plant approximately 6500 acres of corn and soybeans.   I say ‘we’ because our operation consists of 5 families, my dad Gary Willimack and his wife Tamra, Brent and Jessica Willimack and their daughter Addison, Jayson and Megan Willimack and their daughter Greyson, Scott and Kassidy Willimack, and myself Matt Willimack and my wife Amanda and our children Mairead and Owen.

I started farming with my family not long after my work off of the farm allowed us the ability to move back to DeWitt which I call home.  I now work for Grain Processing Corporation in Muscatine, IA in addition to farming with my family.   I started farming with my family because my father Gary has worked hard for many years to build a farming operation that could provide opportunities for his son’s to be a part of production agriculture.  We now all work together for common goals.  Some of those goals are things like:

  • Creating a livelihood for those families involved in the operation
  • Being good stewards of the land, i.e. using technology to be as efficient with things like seed, fertilizer, and chemicals to produce quality grain that helps feed a growing world.
  • Keep land conservation in the forefront.  Strive to leave our mark on the environment as better quality land, water, and air for the next generation.
  • Perpetuating the legacy my Dad and even my grandfather started by giving their children the opportunity to farm.
  • Raising our children to understand and appreciate agriculture and how the food they eat gets to the table.

We take pride in the fact that we continue to be a farming family.  Our business is farming, but we are a family first, and we hope that our farming business stays that way for generations to come.

Matt Willimack, Agriculture Enthusiast

The Logic of Looking Local First

Options by the numbers.  Thirteen companies offer insurance services in DeWitt which cover home, auto, life and health look local logo color (1)needs. Over ten financial institutions present a variety of services such as banking, investing, and accounting; and six of them offer tax service, which is important to note during tax season. If you are wanting to change your look, try one of the five hair salons like Touch of Bliss Salon Spa or the two barber shops in town. Four printing and signage companies like Custom Art and Signs offer many different custom services for your business or personal needs. With all those options and competitive prices, you don’t have to look out of town.

Reliable problem solvers right around the corner. You don’t have to call an 800 number and be put on hold. Not only are there many options and quality service, there’s a bounty of highly trained professionals right here in DeWitt. Frustrated with spreadsheets at work? Hasenmiller Spreadsheet Solutions specializes in optimizing your time by customizing spreadsheets. Need some advice on a house addition?  Consult with one of the three highly experienced construction companies, three electrical contractors or two plumbing and heating companies in town. Does your car need a tune up? Take advice from the three long-standing mechanic shops right around the corner. Three attorney offices offer legal expertise to business and individual clients, which saves a trip to larger cities when dealing with legal matters.

Welcoming community equals business growth. While offering services locally, many companies stretch their territory to a large part of Midwest zip codes. Sandry Fire Supply not only provides gear and equipment to many surrounding states’ fire departments, but also provides emergency car-cutting training to places in South Africa and Europe. Kirby Water Conditioning and Jansen Electric both service a 60-mile radius from DeWitt, offering their expertise to many communities. On the other hand, Grace Lutheran Camp and the Clinton County Fairgrounds literally keep themselves local; however, they service people from all over the region with their extensive community rental facilities.

Giving back. Locally owned businesses build strong communities by supporting local causes. Evidence is in the long list of contributors at a local fundraiser. Title sponsors at a charity event. It’s visible at the Veterans Memorial, a collaboration of companies such as Holst Construction, Hansen Monuments, Jansen Electric and others, who brought their quality of work to a meaningful project.

Rooted in DeWitt, these professional service companies provide us with the advantage of their expertise every day. Reliable problem-solvers with dependable service, highly trained and price competitive. Look Local First. It’s all here, right around the corner.

 

The 5 Healthy Habits of DeWitt Health Care

People in DeWitt have more convenience and less travel to be able to experience high-standards in health care then ever before. Here are five habits of their success.

  1. Be loyal to the cause. It’s no coincidence in 2014 and 2015, Genesis Medical Center – DeWitt was named “Top 20 Hospitals for Quality of Care” by the National Rural Health Association. The quality of care comes from a combination of cutting edge equipment, elite specialists and outstanding in-patient, out-patient and emergency care. They have made it a habit to provide high quality and compassionate care to the DeWitt area since 1952. Other health leaders like DeWitt Dental Associates, Hill Chiropractic, DeWitt Eyecare Clinic, and GMC-DeWitt have served DeWitt for over 35 years.
  1. Try something different. For those who do not seek traditional healthcare, there are five practices in DeWitt which offer chiropractic care and homeopathy options. For example, Stress Solutions Unlimited uses cutting edge light and sound technology such as light bed therapy and ION cleanse to assist their clients. They also offer nutrition education, brain-based and natural healing therapies.
  1. Building strength. There are three physical rehabilitation centers in town, as well as four massage therapy centers. Booked days in advance, these places offer rebuilding and rejuvenation of health through aquatic, neurological rehab, sports performance, hand and orthopedic therapies to name a few. The two fitness centers also do their share of strength training. For the ninth year in a row, starting on January 25th, the DeWitt Fitness Center offers a 10-week Get Fit DeWitt wellness program which encourages individuals to form teams to achieve weight loss goals.
  1. Call on the Experts. In certain cases, when a surgery or specialized procedure is not offered locally, healthcare professionals easily guide clients to trusted associations to ensure the best care. DeWitt Eyecare Clinic provides this for eye surgery patients. DeWitt Dental Associates coordinates specialized surgeries for their clients. And DeWitt Family Health Clinic and Genesis Health Group match mothers-to-be with top area birthing centers.  All are committed to providing services locally, but will always meet the needs of the patient first and foremost. Before and after surgery care is always available as it best meets the needs of the patient.
  1. Options, options, options. DeWitt is home to a variety of reliable options for health care, including two family practice clinics, two elderly care facilities, three physical rehabilitation centers, two dental offices, five chiropractic practices, two eyecare clinics, a locally owned pharmacy and four massage therapy centers. Even three veterinarian clinics for your four-legged or winged friends’ healthcare. And additional options continue to open their doors. DeWitt Delivers Health Care!

Active Dad = Confident Leader

Eleven years ago, I was living in Detroit with my wife and my newborn son, Sam.  My job kept me traveling internationally most of the time.  We decided to move back home to DeWitt about 18 months later.  My new position would allow me to be home and spend time with my family.  Due to the fact that I missed a lot of Sam’s first year of life, I decided that no matter the activity he wanted to participate in, I would be involved.  I really wanted to be a dad who took an active part in their child’s life.

My first volunteering opportunity came in the form of coaching youth sports through the DeWitt Parks and Recreation Department.   I learned early in my volunteering that all these activities took dedicated people to make these programs successful.  I wanted them to be successful so that my kids and other kids could enjoy and learn from these programs.  I realized that I would have to put in a few more hours to help.  This was especially true with the Cub Scouts.  I was not a Cub Scout growing up but Sam wanted to participate.  This drove me to learn about the organization and try to make it the best program for the scouts in town.

Another reason I have volunteered is that it has helped me to grow.  I am not naturally a social person.  I am not comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people.  Two opportunities presented themselves to help me feel more relaxed and open to public speaking.  I took a chance and volunteered to teach Junior Achievement.  It may not seem intimidating to teach kids, but any teacher will tell you that it is a lot harder than it seems.  It has helped me to be more confident in speaking in front of people.  I also became an ambassador for the DCDC.  This forced me out of my comfort zone by having to meet new people and be a face of the community.

I realized through my volunteering that I didn’t just want the programs for the kids to be successful; I wanted to help make the DeWitt community better.  I love living in DeWitt.  I love raising my family here.  I want other people to want to live in DeWitt.   These are some of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to serve on the United Way and DeWitt Hospital Foundation boards.  Taking a few hours each month to volunteer with these organizations can make our community a better place to live.

So why volunteer and how would I have enough time to do all these things?  The thing is you don’t need to volunteer for everything.  If more people volunteer, so much more can be accomplished with little time commitment.  Plus, there are so many positives to volunteering: having fun and building relationships with the people you are working with and helping out; refreshing your spirit and mind; the knowledge that what you are doing is benefiting others.  I have personally gone to a practice or a meeting feeling stressed out, but after spending an hour or so with kids having fun, I have come back feeling like a new person.  Of course the biggest reason to volunteer is to help others; no one can do everything on their own.  It takes a committed group of volunteers to make a great community like we have in DeWitt.

Adam Gravert                                                                                                                                                   DeWitt Resident & Volunteer

 

The Spirit of The Season

Are you having trouble getting into the holiday spirit?  Wanting to share in something a little different?  Hoping to share in the JOY of Christmas with those you love?  For these reasons, along with the desire to connect with my community, I am super excited about DeWitt’s Hometown Christmas event!  

I love living in DeWitt, a community where it is so evident that residents take great pride in where they live.  Not only is DeWitt beautiful on any given day throughout the year, but during Hometown Christmas, the downtown truly shines! As I was running errands yesterday, I noticed the large stone pots in the Downtown District were being filled with lush, seasonal greenery.  The plants were the perfect complement to the holiday lights that were recently put up by a number of community volunteers and the DCDC.  DeWitt sincerely is a great community we live in where there are many people who come together for the greater good.

I have many fond memories from the Window Walk of years past.  I adore the nostalgic feeling one gets as you stroll the streets, peeking in store front windows.  It makes me think fondly of a time where everything wasn’t as technologically spun as it is today.  You can see the children and adults enjoying their ‘job’ in the window.  The bright eyes of the passersby seem to fuel the fire of those behind the glass.  

As if the live window displays aren’t enough to get your attention, one of my favorite parts of the walk is the bonfire the fireman host.  My kids love s‘mores and they idolize fireman, so it is even sweeter to see them participating in such an event and sharing a gooey treat and friendly smile.  Also, many businesses host warming stations or holiday activities for kids to do within their business! My kids have gotten the opportunity to frost their own sugar cookies, make holiday ornaments and even go around downtown and searched for the Elf on the Shelf in the Live Window Displays! What a fun and festive event this truly is!!

So get into the Holiday spirit tomorrow in DeWItt and attend DeWitt’s Hometown Christmas! The weather couldn’t be more perfect for a December night. Grab the chance to mingle on the streets with the ones you love.  While you’re out, take a moment (I bet you’ll find many) to cherish the genuine spirit in the air.  My family and I will see you there!

-Angie Hill, DeWitt Resident and Mother